Japan to Boost Defense Ties With Philippines Amid China Concern

Japan and the Philippines pledged to boost defense ties with both nations expressing concern over China’s establishment of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.

“Both of us have affirmed that China’s unilateral action to change the status quo by force or coercive action will bring back tension in this region,” Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Manila Dec. 7 after meeting with Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin. They agreed to “expand and deepen” cooperation on “defense authorities,” he said.

Japan and the Philippines are also boosting ties with other nations as they seek to counter China’s increasing assertiveness in staking territorial claims. Japan and China are disputing sovereignty over a group of islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, while the Philippines and China both claim areas of the fish and gas-rich South China Sea.

Specifics on expanded cooperation will be discussed by a working group, Onodera said. In June, Japan and the Philippines agreed to cooperate on the “defense of remote islands” and “protection of maritime interests” during Onodera’s first visit to the country.

Japan and the U.S. “have been firmly and calmly continuing patrol and surveillance in the area” under dispute and it is important for the international community to express concern, Onodera said. Philippine President Benigno Aquino is negotiating with the U.S. to rotate more American troops into the country, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Nov. 28 an agreement may be reached early next year.

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